Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer granted the Democratic consulting firms Every Action VAN and Great Lakes Community Engagement control of Michigan’s coronavirus contact-tracing operation. Whitmer then rescinded the contracts from both consulting firms after facing backlash over granting contracts to political organizations.
Every Action VAN is an arm of the Democratic data giant NGP VAN. According to NGP VAN’s website, they are the leading technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns, organizations, nonprofits, municipalities, and more.
NGP VAN is run by Stuart Trevelyan, a Democratic campaign operative who is currently working for presumptive Democratic contender Joe Biden. Trevelyan also worked in the Clinton White House.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, Whitmer’s own gubernatorial campaign paid NGP VAN approximately $5,000 in 2019. The firm is working with Whitmer on her gubernatorial re-election bid as well.
Every Action VAN is considered the non-profit branch of NGP VAN and works with overt political clients including the far-left anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace, Planned Parenthood, and the progressive National Women’s Law Center.
The goal in hiring a consulting firm for contact tracing is to collect information from residents across the state to understand how coronavirus is spreading through Michigan. Volunteers would place phone calls to those who may have been in contact with anyone infected with coronavirus to inquire about their health and gather information.
This is a task that does not require partisanship to achieve. In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker contracted with Partners in Health, a health care nonprofit.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, Whitmer also awarded a contact-tracing contract to Democratic-owned Great Lakes Community Engagement. The organization is run by Michael Kolehouse, owner of Kolehouse Strategies, a Grand Rapids door-knocking firm for progressive candidates.
Approximately five hours after news broke that Michigan’s contact-tracing contracts would be awarded to Every Action VAN and Great Lakes Community Engagement, Whitmer rescinded the contracts due to political backlash.
According to Chad Livengood at Crains Detroit, the contract between the state of Michigan and Great Lakes Community Engagement can be terminated without cause.
The contract with Great Lakes Community Engagement (an LLC of a Grand Rapids Dem political consultant Mike Kolehouse) says it can be terminated without cause.
— Chad Livengood (@ChadLivengood) April 21, 2020
“I think it’s concerning that these initial vendors were ever considered,” said Stu Sandler, the co-founder and partner at Grand River Strategies and former executive director for the Michigan Republican Party.
Sandler said the Whitmer administration bypassed the normal protocol for state contracting.
“The state [of Michigan already] has access to non-political software to do [contact-tracing]. The weird part of this was that it did not go through the normal channels,” Sandler said. “What the state admitted is that there is an entity called the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) and that is supposed to oversee the contracting… this went completely outside of [the SEOC] according to the Whitmer administration, which, no one can understand why that happened.”
Sandler is calling for an investigation into the Whitmer administration’s bypass of the SEOC to grant contracts to political firms with her best interest and political ideology.
“I believe someone should investigate how this contract ever came into effect and who was responsible for putting these parties together,” Sandler said.